I don’t know where to begin with describing the last few weeks, other than to say that earlier this year, I recall reading about a book that argued “closure is a myth,” and having lived through the last few weeks, I would respectfully disagree.
I had as a goal for 2011 to rid myself of my engagement ring. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. It was simply that, to me, it was a symbol of failure. I was sick of feeling so…failed. On the Friday before the NYC Marathon, I sent Miss Mal a message (paraphrased):
I’m going to have my engagement ring appraised today at 4p. I think I’m going to get rid of it. Running the marathon on Sunday; might as well do all the painful stuff in one fell swoop.
She gave a supportive acknowledgment and I was off at the appointed time.
I recently said: I never see anyone on the street in New York. But as I walked down Fifth Avenue that day, at the intersection of 55th Street and Fifth Avenue, I heard my name and there was my old friend Schiff — a dear friend from law school.
I hadn’t seen him in more than two years; not since Andrew and I had split, not since I’d come back to New York after my year on travel.
My life was different when I’d known him before: my razorsharp cheekbones protruding from my face; expensive bags and bangles dangling from my stick arms. And the parties, oh the parties back then! The nights that never ended. The dinners in Tribeca where we debated where the next party would be. The times when dancing on the banquette at 4:00am was “Perfect.”
The scraps of Party Girl Meredith clung to a too-light-for-the-weather plaid jacket and I stood with Schiff on the corner. We stared meaningfully up at a rooftop we’d gone to once or twice before as we talked.
We chatted for a long while then parted ways — swearing it was more likely we’d next meet in London than improbably again in New York. I laughed in retreat, because when he’d met me for the first time, he’d been standing with the man I’d gone on to marry, and I’d been wearing plaid pants in the same pattern as the jacket.
I went on to sell the diamond. I thought it would be more emotional, but it was simply a relief.
I recounted the adventure to Strand and eee later that night, but neither had context for the Schiff story though both had known a Meredith of a five, ten years ago. For instance, neither of them knew that Schiff, our friend AGH and I took Decedent’s Estates together that last Spring at Georgetown, and that Schiff had never attended lecture. AGH was the straight-A gunner who covered our outlining; I covered for Schiff’s on-call in front of the priest who taught the class. AGH and I studied together; Schiff showed up for one single session. Schiff nonetheless managed to pull the best grade of the three of us. AGH had never forgiven him.
Strand and eee didn’t understand how it was a vague nod from AGH and the advice of a fortune cookie that made me get on a train in Edinburgh and go back to London on one day in May. Lawyers vouch for each other, and AGH — by some bizarre twist of fate — happened to be a colleague of the person I was going back to see.
So no one that weekend quite understood how interconnected all of the events that began at 55th and Fifth had been. In my head, they were part of a circle of redeeming things — of love and loss and living again: of the people who were there at the beginning and were there again at the end. A burden had been lifted.
Thanatopsis, as Frederic might have said. As William Cullen Bryant had written. The same William Cullen Bryant who made the case for Central Park, where I would be crossing the NYC Marathon finish line less than 48 hours after selling the ring.
So mere hours later, I was on a bus to Staten Island to run my third New York City Marathon.
It seemed unlikely that I’d run well considering how sick I’d been in September and October; how disoriented I was from the coincidences and catharsis of the days prior.
It was like losing touch with a lover, losing the New York feeling as I had. But I had to run. What I didn’t realize is that I was slated to run on the top deck of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge — the past two years, I’ve run the lower roadway. And that run was simply stunning.
And so I did.
When I fell behind, BA and Jim stepped in at 110th Street to pace me to Mile 23. And I finished right around my goal time — which had seemed like an absolutely unattainable thing.
So: 2011 — 201.3 miles raced; through the generosity of friends and family almost $5,000 raised for various charities; 5 marathons in nine months…for this moment:
So where did this leave me? Did this raise more questions than answers? What happened at the end of the race — did I get the New York feeling back after all?
The answers were simple and not so simple, as are all things. Getting rid of my engagement ring made me realize that I’d felt like a failure for so long, ticking a box wouldn’t make me feel like less of one. I had been hoping there would come a time when I’d feel less failed; that I wouldn’t feel so heavy about all of these unfortunate things.
What hadn’t occurred to me was that getting rid of the diamond, or loving New York again, or crossing another finish line would have nothing to do with any of it.
I finally understood: the marriage failed. I had not. And as it turned out, I hadn’t run nine marathons — even NYC — because I needed to prove anything or find anything. I’d done it simply because I enjoyed the challenge of the race, and running itself, and the people I’d met along the way.
Things fail; things die; we shed ourselves of skins and symbols of what we do right and what we do wrong. Life goes on, primarily because hope persists.